Superheroes are supernatural characters, many of whom have superhuman powers like flight, x-ray vision, or indestructibility. Some are mortals with loads of resources that enable them to create armored suits, amazing vehicles, and powered gadgets that give them superhuman capabilities. They are usually the protagonist in the story, and their goal is to protect the public while battling it out with a supervillain. These fictional characters have dominated American comic books and films since the 1930s. The superhero business is a male dominated field with few female characters!
I have met many superheroes in technology. Like the superhero business, technology is a male-dominated world. In the 2017 US workforce, only 26% of professional occupations in technology were held by women. In the same year, only 17% of all Fortune 500 CIOs were women. This is surprising when compared with another statistic: 57% of all professional US occupations in 2017 were held by women. Though this imbalance may be fact in the technology industry, I am proud to state that Arcadia Data is able to find talent not based on gender, but on raw capability and aptitude. I have the great fortune to work with three smart people in tech: Anjali Norwood, Charu Anchlia, and Carla Ahlstrom.
When I started with Arcadia Data I had to stand up a seven node Cloudera environment, move about 10TB of data into Impala, install Arcadia Enterprise, and build a retail analytics solution for a partner event. I was set up with an AWS account and went to work! I received a Slack message from Anjali Norwood. She spent three hours with me showing me around our tool and how to make it work with large datasets. The information she provided me was invaluable, and I would not have been successful without her guidance. As I got to know her better, I wasn’t at all surprised to learn she leads the Arcadia Data Engine team. She and her team are responsible for building a high performance, scalable query engine that runs against massive amounts of data. Anjali has 18+ years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to Arcadia Data, she was a software engineer with Teradata and IBM working on various database engines. Anjali loves to live in the command line interface and is a wizard. Her backend work is absolutely one of the most critical factors of our product. Her superpowers are in deep technology software development, backend query engines, and very large datasets. She is an atom smasher.
Charu’s superpower is eagle eye and x-ray vision! She is able to build high-value business interfaces that also elicit an emotional response. She is a hard-core programmer, working on some of the toughest visual interface prototypes Arcadia Data comes across. Not too long ago, she built a prototype to overlay building images into a MapBox map and applied a telecommunications signal strength score to each building. See the visually stunning example below:
She also has a keen eye for the aesthetic qualities of a business intelligence dashboard. Charu has both left and right brain capabilities, which makes her unique in the software development world. Get some tough skin because she will give you unfiltered, genuinely accurate feedback on your work. If Arcadia Data had rock star personas, she would definitely be the lead singer! Charu has been with Arcadia Data for nearly five years and brings with her 20 years of software development experience. She graduated with a masters in computer science from Stanford University in 2001 and earned a masters from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2011. Charu is also a blast to hang out with and always good for a laugh!
Carla has the ability to make technology consistent and easy to use. Building a lightweight human controllable web interface is the very essence of adoption. I learned how to build an Arcadia Data Dashboard on my own in about an hour. That’s why Carla’s superhero powers are mind-control and perception. Carla is responsible for Arcadia Data’s user experience and user interface design. A well-designed user interface can be as tough to architect and design as a large city. In a new city without a guide, you wouldn’t know the subway system or street names, let alone where to go to get a good latte. I have watched customers learn Arcadia Enterprise after 30 minutes of training. In no time, our clients are not only building dashboards and visuals, but they are exploring new potential in their data lakes. This is a testament to the work Carla has done with the Arcadia Data UI. Carla has worked for many startups and has been at Arcadia Data for nearly five years. She has a B.S. from the Caltech, an M.S. from the University of Washington, and a Ph.D. from INSA Lyon France, all in chemical engineering. Carla not only cares about creating visually pleasing user interfaces, but also about designing logical user interactions. This explains her passion for Arcadia Data’s UI/UX.
I was a bit nervous writing this article, and I was warned of its potential dangers and criticisms. Don’t get me wrong, I should tread carefully. However, all my life I have been surrounded by powerful women. My mother, a Cuban immigrant born in 1924, went against the grain and received her master’s in business from Ohio Northern and was an English teacher. Not many women went to college at that time. My four sisters are also amazing people who crushed their goals and broke barriers too! My wife speaks five languages and my daughter is a medical doctor. So for me to write about Anjali, Charu, and Carla was not out of surprise or shock, but out of genuine respect and inspiration. These three people might inspire the next Ada Lovelace, who was first to recognize that a machine had applications beyond calculation and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.
Let’s celebrate superheroes like co-founder and CEO of Women 2.0 Shaherose Charania does. She boldly claims: “Women no longer have an ‘if I can’ mindset. Now it’s more about ‘how I can’—be in tech, start something in tech, fund something in tech. That shift is exciting! And it happened because we created a network where we show daily that women are innovating.”
My prediction is that one day women will dominate high tech computing! In the next 20 years, the future Silicon Valleys will be dominated by women who are software engineers, product managers, CIOs, and entrepreneurs.
Arcadia Data is very fortunate to have Carla, Charu, and Anjali as their contributions are paramount to our success as an organization. Arcadia Data is filled with powerful women who perform other critical technology functions, lead our marketing efforts, produce our documentation, and run our offices. They all deserve credit for the efforts they perform. They are our Arcadia Data superheroes!